‘Room’ by Emma Donoghue

In 2008 the world was shocked with the Fritzl case. A man abducted his daughter and abused her for 24 years. It was a great inspiration for many writers, one of whom is Emma Donoghue. She wrote her book ‘Room’ in 2010, two years after the horrible case. The problem books about abduction tend to get, is being written in a melodramatic style. In ‘Room’ this is totally not the case. Emma Donoghue avoided this problem by writing ‘Room’ through the eyes of a five-year old boy, Jack. This made the book very light and sometimes even funny.


Today I am five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra. Before that, I was three, then two, then one, then zero. ‘Was I minus numbers?

These are the first sentences of the book, and they are characteristic for the entire book. Emma Donoghue used a very easy and yet personal writing style. First of all, she uses the ‘stream of consciousness’ as a writing method, and that guides us to a better understanding of Jack. Secondly, the writer types many nouns using capital letters at their beginnings, which is very clever because she tells us that Jack thought that all the things and people in the ‘Room’ are the only real things that certainly exist, and that everything outside of the ‘Room’ is outer space. No wonder that Emma Donoghue was on the short list for The Man Booker Prize.

The book is about a boy, Jack, who lived all his life in a twelve square foot room, and I really mean all his life because he even was born there. His mother was abducted when she was 19 years old by a man called Old Nick. As Jack was growing up, his mother realized that she could not keep him all his life in that room. So after some thinking and some heroic actions by little Jacker Jack, they escaped and went to an institution where Jack learned how to live in the ‘new world’. It is there that he discovered the fact that he had a little sister, but she died a long time ago choking in the navel cord during her birth.

Emma Donoghue wrote this book because first of all she has two children, and she wanted to portray the mother-child bond. She also found motherhood a ‘crash course’ in existentialism, which is about the meaning of life. She also was very intrigued by Cormac McCarthy’s book ‘The Road’. In that book McCarthy displays the father-son bond, and so she wanted to display the mother-son bond. And she did. She portrayed motherly love very well, even though we only see it through the eyes of Jack.

But this also poses a problem, but it’s a small one though. Because we see everything through Jack, we can’t assume that everything he thinks, sees or hears is a hundred percent credible. He’s a small child after all, and sometimes when his mother talks to him or does something, he often interprets it in a wrong way.

‘Today is one of the days when Ma is gone. She won’t wake up properly. She’s here but not really. She stays in Bed with pillows on her bed.’

This is a simple example of a wrong interpretation of Jack of what’s going on, because we as readers know that Ma is sick. Jack on the other hand doesn’t know that, which leads to a misinterpretation.

Besides that the book is really great, I would even call it an eye-opener. We learn what solitary life can lead to. It’s only made bigger because of the protagonist, Jack. The book is like a well written poem that praises motherhood and parental love. It’s a book that gives us a fresh look at the changing world we live in, a fresh look we all need.


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